When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1985, I took a leave of absence from school to spend time with him and my mother. We took drives through the countryside, trips to the zoo and outings to the ballpark. But most of the time, we sat at home and talked about his life, dreams and the legacy of pride and love he wished to leave his family. When he passed away, I took comfort in knowing we had shared some peaceful and happy times.

Having had this experience, I fully appreciate the efforts of the Special Wish Foundation of Denver, which fulfills the wishes of terminally ill adults in the same manner that Make-a-Wish, USA, does for adolescents."Just because we become adults doesn't mean we stop dreaming," says Eleanor Fransen, founder of the Special Wish Foundation. She adds that most adults request opportunities to create positive memories for loved ones.

A typical request is to unite the person with his or her loved ones. The Special Wish Foundation arranges trips, accommodations and activities that the person can share with family.

For example, the foundation arranged a trip to the mountains for a 30-year-old man, his wife and two children. Rather than long waits in the hospital watching their husband and father grow weak from cancer treatments, this trip created a legacy of warm remembrances.

The Special Wish Foundation relies solely on donations. While it is not the only wish-granting organization in the country, it is the only one that addresses the needs of adults. Due to its limited budget, the foundation does not serve persons age 65 and over. One day, I hope a similar program will be developed for seniors.

For more information, call the Special Wish Foundation at (303) 592-5340. -Carol Tei Kubota

QUESTION: My friend and I are 65-year-old widows. Neither of us worked outside the home and both our husbands had the same employer. Yet, in addition to a monthly Social Security check, she gets a second government check. I get only Social Security. She lives in California and I live in Washington state. Does the federal government have a separate payment program for each state?

ANSWER: The federal government administers two income-support programs, known as benefit-transfer programs, through the Social Security Administration: Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (Social Security) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security benefits are based on the credits earned during the wage-earner's employment. As widows, both you and your friend are drawing from the credits earned from your spouses' employment. Social Security credits are based on income and length of employment, so the amount of your Social Security checks is likely to differ even though your husbands worked at the same company.

SSI, unlike Social Security, draws from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. It is not based on employment history but is an income-maintenance program. To qualify for SSI, one must be age 65 or older, blind or disabled and have limited income and assets. The Social Security Administration works with each state to determine eligibility for SSI, based on a person's ability to pay standard-living expenses within the state.

Your friend lives in California and it's likely she is receiving SSI. Because of its higher cost of living, California is one state that augments what the federal government pays under SSI. It combines its payment with the federal SSI check. In other states, SSI recipients can receive three checks per month (one for Social Security, one for SSI and one for state payments).

For more information about SSI eligibility, contact your local Social Security Administration office.

QUESTION: My 78-year-old mother has dementia and is in bed most of the time. She is incontinent. After consulting with her doctor and a urologist, we've been told that this problem cannot be corrected. We tried a catheter, but she pulled it out. We now use "adult diapers," but she gets a rash from being wet, especially during the night. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Try the newer incontinence products that use polymers instead of conventional fiber absorbers. The dry polymer, contained in the crotch of the brief, reacts with moisture and converts it to a gel, which is then held away from the body. Polymer products keep the wearer drier and have a larger capacity for moisture absorption, thus minimizing leakage.